Reflections on the Tashkent Bombings

by Laurence Jarvik on 8/9/2004 · 4 comments

Some thoughts on the most recent bombings in Tashkent:

1) The accused in the Tashkent trial for the March bombings are probably guilty; otherwise the attacks would not have taken place during the proceedings.

2) The attacks were actually pretty low-impact, only a few people were killed, only pedestrian suicide bombers, not truck bombs; which means the Uzbek government is doing a relatively efficient job of stopping terrorism–compared to recent blasts in Turkey and Spain, for example.

3) Whether or not Hizb-ut-Tahrir is directly involved, the Islamist extremist ideology represents an affront to progressive causes of all kinds: women’s rights, minority rights, religious rights, civil rights, and so on. That danger is reinforced by the obvious anti-semitism of the Israeli embassy as a bombing target.

4) Democratization cannot successfully take place in Uzbekistan until the population is assured that violence has stopped. Unless that happens, the pre-existing Soviet system will look more attractive than American or European sponsored alternatives, and certainly better than a fundamentalist option.

5) The cutoff of American aid by the the Bush administration may well have emboldened the terrorists, who might think they can now up the ante, and persuade America to close its air base in Uzbekistan by increased terrorism.

One irony is that Uzbekistan needs the US presence to keep fundamentalists at bay in Afghanistan, and as leverage against Russia, a “triangulation” to preserve national independence. Those who are attempting to bring democracy to Uzbekistan by supporting the fundamentalists against the government may be making matters worse.

For if the Islamists succeed in scaring America away, Russia may quickly move back into the vacuum, as it has in Tajikistan.

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anon August 9, 2004 at 9:06 pm

I agree with the point that the attacks were very low impact. They took place specifically at times when there would be few ‘civilians’ around, and only people associated with the institutions attacked would be around.

I disagree with your comment that the 568(a) decision played a role supportive of the terrorists. The Uzbek Government’s reaction to the early 2004 attacks was restrained and professional and is pointed to as a positive step by the U.S. government. Why will the Uzbek government respond differently with these attacks? If they respond as they did before, it will be another example of the Uzbeks acting ‘as a real country,’ and would hardly scare off the Americans. Of course, it is early still, and the round-ups could still begin, but there is no real evidence of them yet…

Alisher August 10, 2004 at 5:25 am

Also I can add from my side that Uzbekistan is now faced not with locally-brewed Islamist groups, but with international terrorism. The Islamic fundamentalism has been exported to Uzbekistan from outside, and now these groups like Al Qaeda, Hizbut-Tahrir, IMU etc want to enlarge their support base in Uzbekistan. Maybe I am too cynical but I think that they targeted only law reinforcement organisations, the embassies and the government not because they care so much about civilians, but because it is a clear strategy to manipulate the public opinion, and to indicate “the common enemy”- the police, the government, the West with America and the Jews.
What surprises me really in this story is the Israeli embassy. Uzbekistan has nothing to do with Arab-Israeli confrontation, the Jews have been peacefully living and prospering in Uzbekistan (Bukhara) for many centuries, if not millennia.
At least this can be considered as a clear sign of international nature of these terrorist groups. Yesterday’s bombings in Istanbul historical hotels, Tashkent bombings, etc all indicate one alarming tendency. The Fundamentalist groups are regrouping, they are harmonising their ideologies and methodologies of action, and they are coordinating their activities. Central Asia is the buffer zone and the first major battleground beetween the Fundamental islam and the free world; Uzbekistan has joined the coalition against terrorism primarily not because it wanted American money, but it saw it as an opportunity to fight back the threats posed by Extremist Islam.
I am not talking at all about political, economic and human rights dimensions of the problem, but even from a simple ethical point of view, it surprises me that America, at this difficult time, turns its back on its ally.

haroon August 11, 2004 at 2:55 pm

Bombing an Israeli embassy is not anti-Semitic. It is anti-Israeli.

Laurence August 11, 2004 at 3:09 pm

Haroon, how do you know the intention of the bombers?

Most of the extremist Islamist literature I’ve seen calls for killing Americans and Jews, not just Israelis, including Bin Laden’s famous Fatwa.

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